Thursday, 25 November 2010

Thursday 25th November 2010

And so we woke on Sunday feeling slightly drained after the walking around Canterbury done the day previously. We lay in bed until the mewing and scratching of the kittens forced us out of bed. And I sat on the sofa and watched the re-run of Match of the Day, filled as it was by surprise results and red cards.
At half ten we headed out to look at some bathrooms. This time in Wickes, rather than a bespoke bathroom emporium. Needless to say, prices were more to our liking, and we decided on something that looked ok. All we have to do now is to see how our respective jobs pan out until Christmas, and then we shall arrange a bloke to fit the stuff. Both our jobs are on the line, but Jools should know by the beginning of December, and I might know by Christmas.

Or not.

So, after looking round nice bathrooms and kitchens, we headed home for lunch and once the rain began to fall, I sat on the sofa for an afternoons football on TV, and kittens asleep on my lap.

And so Monday rolled round again, and instead of packing for a trip to the frozen wastes of Denmark , I was driving once more to Ramsgate for a normal week at work. Things do change, of course. And so apart from the occasional bump, the week has been fine, just a little quiet at times, but gives me a chance to bury my head in procedures; at some point I am hoping its all going to make sense!

So, two more days at work, and then a 5 day weekend, and we head out on our holidays for a couple of nights in Manchester and then Blackpool .

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Sunday 21st November 2010

A day, so they say, is a long time in politics; and so it is true in the life of an international quality expert. I say international as I have worked in France for seven days doing this job; and expert because I can't think of a better word. But with each passing day I feel I know more than those who have been working with the system for years. Oh, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.....

Canterbury 20th November 07:30 a.m.

So, this week my boss has been on the second week of his holiday in the land of the Pharaohs; and so it has been up to me to prepare for our scheduled quality meetings in Denmark this week. That done, flights and accommodation arranged, plus the chance to meet an old RAF friend whilst in Denmark it was all shaping to be an interesting week. And then the phone goes; it's my boss; he's quite ill and unfit to travel next week, and so all the meetings and the trip have been postponed.

And then an afternoon of cancelling travel arrangements and the such, and instead of packing this weekend I have been lazing around. Amongst other things.

And Friday had been going so well; my old Boss, Ian and one of the other guys went to the Bell in Minster for a pint and cheesy chilli chips for lunch; a good weekend ahead and the end of what was going to be my last full working week at Ramsgate until the new year.

And, as I said, the phone rang.

Oh well. For Saturday, I had planned an all day Flickrmeet in Canterbury, starting at eight in the morning and going on until after dark, if anyone else would turn up. And so it was seven when we left the house for the short drive to Canterbury, and half past when I was dropped off on the deserted streets. And the day was mine; as it were.

Canterbury Flickrmeet, 20th November 2010

I walked a circuit of the cobbled streets getting shots of the empty streets, with the lights still showing strong in the shop's windows. At eight I went to the Cathedral Gate, and already my friend Matt was there. We waited ten minutes more and another couple arrived, and so we went for a walk through the city centre, and out past the old King's School and back again.

I had prepared an itinerary, and so at nine we made our way to the coffee shop to see if any one else would arrive, and for some of us to have a second breakfast.

One more person arrived, and so the five of us headed off to the city walls for a walk along them to the castle. Sadly, the weather was, and stayed overcast all day, making photography tricky; but we got some shots and plenty to get our juices flowing.
The castle was closed for the whole moth for renovation, and so we walked back to the centre of town, and we found we had an hour before the next rendezvous at half twelve in a pub. As it is Jools' birthday this week, I headed off to get a card and left the others.
After getting one, I saw that the pilgrim's hospital was open, and at just a pound to get in, I thought I would take the chance to visit in the half hour I had. First, as king if photography is allowed, of course!

Canterbury; before the crowds.

After getting my shots, I headed to the Dolphin for a refreshing beer and a baguette, and waited for the others to arrive. In the end it was two long beers and plenty of chatting before we headed out back onto the streets. The intention was to visit the ruins of St Augustine's Abbey, but the light was fading past, and at about three the others decided to call it a day and i was left alone.

Cathedral Gate, Canterbury

Alone and trying to find a public toilet as the two pints tried to exit my body; after finding two sets closed, the only things was to visit a pub, order another pint and use the facilities there. So, I went to the Miller's arms, ordered a pint of Christmas Ale and took a seat by the fire and checked up on the football scores on my mobile.

The view through Cathedral Gate, Canterbury

At four I went to meet with Jools at the Cathedral Gate, and in the fast fading light we walked round so I could get some shots of the shops and shoppers before the chill made us head to another bar for more warming beer.

Canterbury Flickrmeet, 20th November 2010

Rather than wait for our reserved table, we tried to restaurant we had booked early to see if our table was free; and they were more than pleased to serve us early.

And so we sat down to a Moorish starter to share; smoked peanuts, kofke style meatballs, chorizo sausage and some kind of dip; all very nice. And then our tagines arrived, which along with some couscous was splendid. Time for a coffee and a selection of sweet, sticky cakes, and then a walk in the chill night air to the car and a quick drive home.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Wednesday 17th November 2010

And so on the 16th day of November 2010 on the day on which the president of the EU said that the potential bank failures in the Republic of Ireland, Greece and Portugal could not only bring down the EU but the Euro as well; hundreds more die of cholera on Haiti, an international arms smuggler was extradited to the US, the main story on all the BBC outlets was that a chivvy chinless wonder was going to marry his old student girlfriend, and that we should be happy, doubly so as it is we taxpayers who will be footing the bill.
This is a man, who is now employed as a search and rescue helicopter pilot, who could live in the officer’s mess at RAF Valley, secure behind several lots of barbed wire fencing, instead decided that being the same as his fellow officers was not good enough, and would rent a house which requires constant policing by special branch and anti-terrorism police. What, waste more money? Yes please. Can I have a wedding too?

Oh yes we should be so happy, a royal wedding; who cares if the country is broke? And there was talk that in these financially challenging times maybe a more austere ceremony might be arranged. Lets not forget that in 1981, Chaz and Di got married in full pomp; that dress and cake and all those soldiers must have cost a few shillings……

Calais and The Channel at Dawn

On the work front, things continue as before, with me making slow headway against the forces of sloth and complacency. In truth, most have had other things on their minds this week, as the first tranche of lay-offs announced, and people who I have been dealing with have now gone, and others step into their shoes and require more re-training to see my point of view. It’s hard work. But, of course it is sad when anyone loses their job, and it might be my turn soon enough when more meetings and groups decide on re-alignments. We shall see; we shall see.

A bit of drama on Monday when Mike’s car would not start, and so I had to drop Jools at work and then pick her up in the evening. After peering under the bonnet it seems a fuel pump problem could lay at the root cause, or not. And so we are back to one car now, and I drop off and pick up Jools, which adds about an hour to the day. Even more yesterday as there were meetings at the factory and she did not get out until half five. And so now I get the experience the thrill of Combe Valley Road with its lunatic scaffolding drivers, odd-placed roadworks and general pain in the ass getting through the parked cars and the idiots coming the other way no waiting. God, I sound like a grumpy old man. Maybe I am? Especially when driving.


So, once back home, I cook steak and ale pie with veg, roast potatoes and onion gravy; all done in about 40 minutes, which is not bad, we sit down to a fine meal, uninterrupted as we lock the kittens in the kitchen, tempted as they are by the smell of non-kitty food on the table. We now have proper door-stops in the bedroom so for the most part have uninterrupted night sleep; until last night, when Scully managed to put her weight against the door and get in. She climbed on the bed and burrowed between Jools and I; after about an hour of sleeping, she woke up and began playing.


As cute as this no doubt sounds, at half four in the morning it was not good, and meant more broken sleep for us and a rethink about how to keep the kittens out of the bedroom. Not that they are kittens any more; more like adolescent cats, full of energy and now much stronger and very little out of the way from their jumping powers.

We did try the sloe gin last night; and very good it was too. I was surprised, but shouldn’t have. Sloe Gin, or ours, tastes not unlike cherry liqueur, which I like. I tried a second one just in case I was mistaken with the first, but wasn’t. A third confirmed this assessment, and primed me to try the sloe and blackberry gin, which was just a little sharper, but very drinkable.

Chin chin.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Monday 15th November 2010

Last autumn, when the wind blew, the leaves from our mature tree which dominates our back garden, did not fall in our garden, but covered the lawn of one of our neighbours. Foolishly, I believed this would happen this year. Sadly, no. Jools looked out into our garden and saw drifts of golden leaves, and knew they had to be collected. So, after some delay I did go and help clear the leaves away.

The forecast was for rain, and then lots more rain, followed by rain with extra rain on the side: so, we headed to Deal whilst the going was good, our plan was to park on the seafront and then walk to Sandwich along the shingle beach. We had a couple of chores to run in town first, so after parking up we walked down one of the narrow lanes to Middle Street, to be met by a square with a pub at opposite corners. I snapped away, and then we headed towards the High Street and shopping.

Middle Street, Deal

Deal is a purty town, and popular, which can only go to explain the people jam that we encountered; the best thing was to walk on the road avoiding the people standing and talking on the pavement.

Walking back to the square with the pubs, Jools said that she was thirsty and did I fancy a drink? So we headed into the Saracens Head for a pint and a bag of crisps. It came as no surprise when we agreed that the walk was not needed, and what might be better was a drive back home and a snooze.

The Saracens Head, Deal

I lay on the sofa after another beer to accompany lunch, and was joined by two kittens, and it came as no surprise, being full of beery goodness, slept through the football on the radio. I did wake up in time to watch Norwich play on TV, only for a clown of a referee send off our star player, and Reading our 3-1 half time lead to draw 3-3.

The Saracens Head, Deal

I had made a curried pumpkin soup, and spicy pumpkin cake with a pumpkin we had been given, and we tucked into some of each for dinner. And it was good.

And on Sunday the rain did continue to fall. And so our plan to go for a walk with our friend Frances was cancelled, and so we made do with talking, and then I went into the kitchen to make lunch; roast chicken, stuffing, roast potatoes, vegetables and a larger Yorkshire pudding. It was good.

After Frances left, I retreated to the sofa for more football to watch Sunderland and Chelsea swap shirts before their game, which is the only explanation for the 3-0 easy victory for the Black Cats.

Outside, the rain continued to fall. And then some.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Friday 12th July 2010

And so another week draws to an end. We sit at work clock watching, waiting for the appointed time when we can, in Fred Flintstone mode, run out of the office, clocking out shouting yabba dabba doo, or words to that effect, leap in the car and head off down the road to the drive in movie place and stop off for ribs the size of a house on the way home. Some of those things may happen, some are just in my head.

It has been a good week; my boss is on holiday, not that is an excuse for an easy week. I had a load of stuff to do, and I got that done, and hit a few more homers and spent far too long dealing with Danish incompetence. Yes, it is rife and running free in the Nordic states as well. Every day I battle the evil that is the sloping shoulder of another guy on the end of this copper wire who won’t actually check anything. Sigh.

Castle street, Dover

But, using the mighty sword of truth, I slay the dragons of sloth and march on to battles yet to come. Oh well. What I dream of, is e mailing someone, they saying they will do something, and them actually doing it. What a glorious day that will be. But until then, I will deal with the real world. Or, me asking for something to be done, and not having to trouble myself, sure in the knowledge that the task would eb carried out, and if there was a snag that person would mail or call me to clear up confusion.

Ah yes.

I keep smiling. Smiling.

Castle Street Fish and Chips, Dover

Last night I went to camera club. Going to camera club, especially on the night when it clashes with extreme beading classes in Deal, requires either quick cooking or getting fish and chips. It comes as no surprise that we chose the latter last night, and after being home long enough to feed the cats, read the mail and change out of our work clothes, we head off to into the night and the delights of Dover's Castle Street and its chippy.

Lower Road (River)

After getting the hot parcels of lardy goodness, we head up to the car park at Western Heights to sit in the car, eat our chips and watch the lights twinkling in far off Calais over the Channel.

Now, the problem: Jools has to head to Deal, and I have an hour to kill before the club starts, and so what to do? In a word; PUB!

Jools dropped me off at the Royal Oak near the water mill where camera club is held, and so i sat down to read the latest copy of Word whilst I supped pints of Late Red. The landlady did talk to me a while about photography, as I had been taking shots outside, and we swapped stories on history of the area.


And so on the camera club, where it was an internal competition night; I entered three shots into the digital side, and managed to win the shot of the night, which was nice and very pleasing.

Happy the man.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Deception Point.

And so we now know, that if there is a law blocking a government doing something unsavoury, like say for instance, torture. All the government has to do is change the definition of what torture is and then we can pretend that almost drowning somebody, no matter how much of a bad person that is, is not torture. Because the lawyer said so, and in the words of the idiot in chief, I’m no lawyer! You don’t say so George?

And so we justify doing bad things because the ‘enemy’ does bad things too. And by doing bad things we stopped bad things from happening. Although there is no proof that torture works at all, because apply enough pressure and/or pain and people will agree to anything. Yes, I recant the devil and his army of demons, of course I do. Now can you please stop inserting those large spikes up my bottom?

Torture, black opps, rendition, black prisons, spin, Dick Chaney: there is no length to which the allies went to which was beyond the pale. A truly moral leader of men would know what is morally right. Even if a lawyer had said water-boarding was within the law, you would know that morally it was wrong. And a true leader of men would accept that buck stops with him.

And if invading Iraq was because Saddam was a bad man, then why stop there? North Korea , Indonesia , Sri Lanka , China and so on, all have appalling human rights records, and some have waged wars on their own people. But we leave them well alone don’t we? I feel that the invasion of Iraq was either done with the knowledge that there was no WMD because kitting level for the British troops was quite frankly pathetic, and so it must have been known that there was no need for NBC suits, respirator canisters, etc. The only other explanation was that MOD procurement was terrible.

Wait a minute……

Monday, 8 November 2010

Monday 8th November 2010

And here we are, back at work.

Weekends come round so slow and yet pass by in the twinkling of an eye. But, the weeks do seem to pass by quickly; it is now the 8th of November; I mean, where did October go? And September for that? These next few weeks are going to be hectic, as I am running the department, kinda, in the absence of my boss who is in Egypt on holiday. And after that we have a week long trip to Denmark , which will be a round of meetings, meetings with more meetings thrown in. After that I have three days holiday, during which time we are heading to Manchester and Blackpool to visit friends and for me to take some snaps. The week after that I have a first aid course for three days, and beyond that I have to go to Kendal for a course. Which that brings us to the week before Christmas.


And so, we must take our relaxation where we can. And that is what weekends are for.

Saturday, a friend had arranged a Flickrmeet in Deal; Jools had a bead class, which gave me time to hunt for birthday presents for her too. And so just before nine I headed off on the great hunt for a parking space. Not that Deal is too bad, as long as you’re up with the larks, getting a spot is not difficult. But, at nine parking charges begin, and so anywhere near the beach and pier is full of cars owned by fishermen who think nothing of standing for hours waiting for a bite. Don’t see the attraction myself, but who am I to judge?

I got the last space near the pier, and walked to the High Street through the narrow and picturesque side streets. I bought a couple of books and then made my way to the record shop. Deal still has an independent shop, and the owner is knowledgeable enough. I got a load of stuff I recognised from the radio show we listen to most evenings.

That job sorted, I walked back to the pier and bumped into a friend; and so together we walked to the cafĂ© at the end of the pier to meet the others. 12 of has gathered from all parts of East Kent for a chat, and to take a few shots. And breakfast. In fact some of the others had already finished their ‘megga’ breakfasts and were nursing swollen bellies. I ordered a small one and we sat down to chat and exchange news and other upcoming shoots.

(part of) Deal Flickrmeet 6th November 2010

Back outside we make our way up the prom the castle, snap that, and wander back past what is left of the fishing fleet, which, as normal was beached high up on the shingle bank.
Just before twelve, we all left, with my friend Matt and I heading to a country pub to snap that, and to sample their ales, before heading back to mine to try the porter which is now perfect for drinking.

The Haywain is a fine pub on the main road from Sandwich to Canterbury , and is in the hamlet of Bramling; which also gives its name to a strain of hop, which as any fule kno, is used in the making of beer. So, we ordered a couple of pints of Bramling Cross, made with those local hops, and settled down to listen to the banter of the locals.

The Haywain, Bramling

Time then to head back to the house and that date with a couple of bottles of porter, and to chat more about photography and possible trips. We had the scores from the afternoon’s games on the computer, before it was time for Matt to head off to the station to catch his train back to Ashford.

The Kentish Missile silos

That evening, I cooked chorizo hash, which is probably our favourite meal; or one of them anyway. And then we settled down to watch a documentary on the last day of The Great War; of which I plan to write more about on the 11th.

Sunday the rain did fall. Oh yes it did. And so we did not go for a walk, either on our own or with the ramblers. In fact we just visited Jools’ Father and then headed back home for lunch of bacon sarnies and to watch the rain fall down the window. That afternoon, Jools did some beading and I made a huge pan of stew and watched the football on TV. Not a bad afternoon all in all, and the games were great with both Arsenal and Chelsea losing.

For dinner we had roast beef and all the trimmings, which was all very nice, and afterwards we lay on the floor listening to Desert Island Discs with kittens asleep on our bellies. I had lit the wood burner, and as the wind howled outside we lay quite, quite happy.

We slept well last night, until at five past three, we were awoken with the house shaking as a single crack of thunder boomed directly overhead. I lay awake listening to the thunder getting quieter as the storm moved away, but then the rain fell once again.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Thursday 4th November 2010

And that, my friends, is nearly another week over!

Now that I have work to fill my days, the days themselves take care of themselves and the hours fly by. I go in, power up the computer, check mails, and then listen to the previous day's Steve Lamaq show whilst I tap away. The sandwich wagon comes at half ten, which signals that I have at the coal face for three hours or so. Time for lunch and another coffee. And then back to work, this and that, depending on what my boss has asked me to do.

And so the days pass, pretty much the same, with the occasional victory here and there to make it feel it has all been worth it.

And then on wednesday, after I had left for home, the phones began to ring; my work's mobile would have, had it been switched on; the phone at home rang but there was no one home. By the time I get back, Jools was there and having seen a missed call displayed had found the number of who had rung and called back: it's work she told me as I walked through the door.

I dreaded what it could be, I searched for who to call, and then the phone beside the sofa rung. I picked up.


Hello; is that Ian?


Its the marine co-ordinator here; someone said you do a bit of photography. Would you mind going out to the windfarm tomorrow afternoon to take some shots of the lights to show the MCA?

Yes. Yes, I will go out and take pictures. I laughed inside. A lot.

And so after another normal day, I walked down to the dock, and the Norfolk Swift hoved to and came along side. After the first mate tied it off, I climbed on. And then we loaded the stores.

Row A

Something Darren had not said was that we were also going out to re-supply the ROV ship inspecting the HV cables.

We set off, what I now know was not full speed. It was pleasant as we rounded North Foreland point and headed out into open water.

Once at the farm, we slowed down at the first turbine, and I snapped; it was not quite dusk and the lights were not that obvious. But light was fading fast; and by the time we got to the second turbine, it was perfect. I got the shots required and we headed to the third turbine; but the light had gone. I got a couple of usable shots, and then we headed to the ROV ship.


We came alongside and began to throw the stores through the door; it was hard work, and tricky as the wind and sea had got up. But the first mate and I got the job done, and we were able to head back to port.

Now, without supplies on deck, the mater put the hammer down, and we were lumping and bumping through the heavy sea; as the launched off every wave, the crashed into the next, jarring bones and teeth.

Thankfully, the tip lasted about 35 minutes, which was 30 minutes too long. But, soon enough the bright lights of Ramsgate got nearer, and soon the familar sights came into view. And just like that it was time to get off and it was all over.

Even better, I got the shots required, and I got me some fines shots of the coast at dusk with the sun setting.

Thanet Offshore Windfarm at dusk.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Tuesday 2nd November 2010

And so after supping some beer, we headed back home for lunch. We had two fine looking pork pies which I had bought the day before from the butcher. I had also put a couple of bottles of the winter ale in the fridge too, and so that was a very fine lunch indeed I have to say.

Needless to say after that, I heard to sofa calling, and so with the radio on, I lay down to listen to Norwich on the radio, this time playing Cardiff . And was soon joined by two sleepy kittens who were more than happy to have a sleepy lap to kip down on. Sadly, Norwich lost, whilst playing quite well, and so it is not all doom and gloom.

That night, I cooked steak again, which once again was really wonderful. I had a couple of glasses of a fine Tuscan red, and Jools went to a chippy so I did not have to fire up the frying pan.

Due to the insomniac kittens, I slept that night with ear plugs in, and so got over none fine hours of sleep. And even better, the clocks went back so we still had the whole day in front of us. We got going quite slowly, I sat in front of the TV watching the highlights of the previous day’s football. But coming up to ten, we headed out in the car.

We had been invited to our friend’s, Matt and Dadi’s place in Ashford for lunch. We were early, as I wanted to call into Folkestone to snap a pub there for another friend. There is really nothing quite like the seaside out of season when the skies are leaden and a heavy drizzle is falling. I found the pub, and duly recorded it, before we climbed down the steps of the cliff to the harbour.

Low Tide Folkestone Harbour

A few brave souls were out, sampling fresh seafood and taking the air. This did mean dodging the dog crap left by inconsiderate owners; although my description was stronger, of course. Let it go, Ian. The low tide leaves the harbour just a muddy bowl, but seeing beached fishing boats makes for kinda good shots, and so I recorded that scene as well.

Kiosk; Open Daily

And then off to Ashford. Asford is rather like Swindon ; in that most of it is less than 20 years old and it all looks the same. But, in fairness, they had built the houses around where our friends live, in-between copses and small woods, and so there are mature trees with deep golden leaves just fluttering in the gentle breeze.

We had a fine meal with our friends, and good conversation too. It is so good to see their lives settling down in their new home. They have been in their flat for over 10 months now, and it looks like a home now.

Seafood Stall, Folkestone Harbour

And then back home in the gloom of a late autumn afternoon now the clocks have gone back, back home to see the NFL game from Wembley. Which means it is a year since we were there watching last year’s game. In truth the game was not good; two poor teams, the 49ers and Broncos battling for who were the worst. It took until the 4th quarter for things to spark into life; and a hail Mary kind of play for the 49ers turned things around. They almost never come off, but did this time.

And after another fine nights kitten-free sleep it was back to work.